Eastick's semi-final joy
Tuesday, 28 July, 2009
Head Coach reflects on Slovenia victory.
Nicholas Veevers in Donetsk
England U19s Head Coach Brian Eastick paid tribute to his players after seeing them top Group A and progress to the semi-final of the European Championship.
The Young Lions knew that a win would be good enough to clinch a place in the last four, but their 7-1 victory over Slovenia was good enough to see them finish top ahead of hosts Ukraine and they will now play France on Thursday for a place in the final.
Despite the scoreline, a record result in UEFA U19 Championships, Eastick felt that his side still had to win the early battle before their goals came along.
“We're pleased to have won so well, and the result looks conclusive but we could even have been a goal down as Slovenia had the first real chance of the game,” he said.
“Had they scored that chance, maybe the game would've been different.
“After that, we played some very good football and we were clinical in front of goal and our finishing was very good.
“When their player was sent off, quite rightly for a dangerous tackle, we were in a dominating position and I don't think anyone could deny that we were the better of the two teams over the 90 minutes.
“We look forward to the semi-final with France, but we know it will be a tough game as you expect for any match in the last four of a European Championship.”
England were also down to the bare bones in terms of the players available too. With Manchester United midfield pair Danny Drinkwater and Matthew James and defender Joe Mattock all ruled out through injury, there was a new look formation on show with forwards Danny Welbeck, Rhys Murphy and Nathan Delfouneso all causing a threat throughout.
“Unfortunately we have a few injuries now and we are struggling for bodies, so we had to play the way we did with three centre forwards on the pitch because we had no-one else available,” he added.
“It wasn’t a clever tactical switch or anything, and we have no centre halves so we had two full backs playing there again but the players who came in did a very good job for us.
“We will take stock and prepare for the game with France now and we’ll see how we play against them.”
Eastick’s squad have gained momentum over the three games so far as the team gather more match fitness, so now everyone involved is hoping that trend can continue.
“I think we are improving and our fitness is getting better,” admitted Eastick.
“The players had only had a short pre-season before we came, so the games are good for their fitness and we are getting fitter.
“Against Switzerland, we looked very rusty but we’re looking forward to the semi-final now.”